Dickson Wins Summit Mayoral Election in Apparent Republican Sweep; Ward 2 Race Still Extremely Close; Dems Look to Absentee Ballots

New Summit Mayor Ellen Dickson is congratulated by Council President Dave Bomgaars after the unofficial election results were announced. Credits: Christy Kass

SUMMIT, NJ – Summit Republican Common Council Member Ellen Dickson bested two other challengers on Tuesday to win the city’s mayoral election.

Dickson, in unofficial returns, had 1,851 votes to 1,591 for Democrat Eileen Forman-Ludden and 1,254 for Republican Common Council Member Michael Vernotico, who ran as an independent for mayor.

The GOP standardbearer ran strongest in Ward 1, where unofficial tallies showed her with 948 votes to 750 for Forman-Ludden and 547 for Vernotico.

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In Ward 2 Dickson had 903 votes to 841 for Forman-Ludden and 707 for Vernotico.

Approximately 35% of the city’s 13,522 registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday.

The Common Council race in Ward 2 was extremely close after unofficial results were announced Tuesday, with Republican Patrick J. Hurley leading A. Dennis White, the Democrat, by 17 votes—1161 to 1144.

City Democratic Chair Paul Dillon remained optimistic on Tuesday, pointing out that there still were 300 absentee ballots to be counted.  He felt this could turn some of the results around for the Democrats, especially in the close Ward 2 council race.

In the First Ward, Dr. Robert Rubino, the Republican hopeful, had 1190 votes to 973 for Democrat Sandra Bloom in unofficial results.

The race for the at-large council seat saw Republican Gregory Drummond with 2408 votes to 2078 for Susan Hairston, the Democratic contender. Drummond tallied 1159 in Ward 1 to Hairston’s 1002 and he had 1249 in the Second Ward to 1072 for Hairston.

Dickson told The Alternative Press she was pleased with the results and thought it would be a close race.

Commenting on the recent strong disagreements among council members, she said she thought many of the reports of rancor on the governing body were “overblown” and hopefully, with three new council members the body would function more peacefully.

“We will, of course, disagree on issues,” she added, “but I think we will continue to work for the good of the city.”

Dickson said she was proud that the hard work she put into her campaign paid off.

Forman-Ludden said she was disappointed and, to an extent “feared for the future of Summit,” because the composition of council is changing little.

"My concern is that all our representative government is now held by one single party," she said. "Single party representation can be unhealthy, no matter the party."

However, Forman-Ludden congratulated the Republican candidates and she she supports Summit's elected officials, old and new, as they govern the city.

"Their volunteerism is part of what makes Summit a great place to live," she said.

Although the Democrat believes Drummond can be a “voice of reason” on the council, based on past performance she is not quite so sure that can be said of Rubino. She added, however, that the people of Summit have spoken and she accepts their verdict.

Forman-Ludden noted she will continue to be involved in public life and will appear at council meetings when she thinks it is necessary, especially when it comes to issues involving the Community Programs Advisory Board, of which she is a member.

Vernotico also was disappointed, although he said he would not have run his campaign differently,

He added, with the departure of Democratic Mayor Jordan Glatt, Democratic Councilman-at-Large Stephen Murphy and himself, the council probably now would have no voice of disagreement when needed.

He also said the council may return Councilman Thomas Getzendanner to some of the committees from which he was removed after Vernotico raised questions about his actions involving the city’s legal billing in the Ameripay payroll lawsuit and allegations Getzendanner attempted to get a city employee to improperly waive a cat license late fee owed by a constituent.

The race probably would have been easier for him to win, Vernotico said, if Forman-Ludden had not run. He expected to split the Republican vote with Dickson and to garner more Democratic votes, especially among the more moderate Democrats.

He also said he expected to do better in Ward 1 than he did.

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